Movie Review
Cabin Fever
Cabin Fever poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published September 14, 2003
US Release: September 12, 2003

Directed by: Eli Roth
Starring: Jordan Ladd , Rider Strong , James DeBello , Cerina Vincent

Running Time: 94 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $21,156,000
18 of 130
We finally have a teen horror film that is actually creepy, enjoyable, and even (intentionally) funny
From the minute Cabin Fever began, I had a pretty good feeling I was in for something above average.

As the story cranked into gear, I found myself enjoying its characters and riding along with the show. We finally have a teen horror film that is actually creepy, enjoyable, and even (intentionally) funny.
Eli Roth, who wrote, directed, and produced the film, is evidently a fan of the old school horror films, as it screams in his entire premise and atmosphere. Unlike the latest crop of cheesy teen horror movies focusing on the boogeyman jumping out of every corner for cheap scares, the antagonist in Cabin Fever is actually inhuman ? there actually is no living antagonist, as it is purely a force one cannot see.

This is not The Blair Witch Project (though the influence is apparent), nor Evil Dead, nor any of the other relevant horror films set in the woods. Roth creates the terror in natural situations, as it is not the scary man with the knife that we fear, but rather, it is the unknown that we fear. Cabin Fever is also not for the average teen crowd looking to jump out of their seats in a cheesy fun time; its horror is within the human drama and the reality depiction in which the movie takes on. In many ways the film runs in the same style as 28 Days Later (B) but not quite as effective.

Following the encouraging opening credits, Cabin Fever then makes you think it?ll sail off as your average 80?s horror film. A group of (presumably) stupid teenagers head off after the completion of exams, planning to stay in the woods for a week where we might expect each individual to be killed off one by one. They are killed off in that fashion, but not in the manner in which we might anticipate. It seems that there is a flesh-eating virus within the desolate area ? the cause being unknown ? but the characters being a target.

I?ve got to hand it to Roth, as even from the beginning segments he was pulling laughs out of me due to the characters, as many of them are likable and amusing. It even made me ask if I was really in a teen horror flick; I was, but one that actually comprehends the components at hand.

Cabin Fever reinforced what is missing in today?s world of horror moviemaking, and that is the ability to sit in your seat, observing the situations, and pondering the possibilities. Though there is a soundtrack to this movie ? and a good one even ? Roth covers much of the film with silence, sparking a flashback to the first time I watched Alien (B+) not too long ago, with the method nearly killing me in suspense (how ironic that the Alien Director's Cut was one of the previews).

Cabin Fever is very atmospheric and may only be creepy if the viewer makes it creepy. I found myself tense throughout most of its duration, admiring the use of silence and storytelling devices, and wondering how clever Roth was going to be in the end. With a made-to-be-slasher premise, the film is a delight in the ways of what it doesn?t do, which audiences might be disappointed with. There are jumps, I promise you that (and many of them got me), but this is not the standard jump out of your seat scare picture, and I appreciate that even if many moviegoers probably won?t.

What was slightly disappointing was the maneuver of the ending. With its utensils, Cabin Fever could have been one very memorable creepy horror film; and while I do think it has the possibility of becoming a midnight cult release, it doesn?t do anything enormous in accomplishments.

Cabin Fever does happen to do more than many films of its genre, but Roth doesn?t live out the later end of the show with as much creativity or originality as he conveyed for most of the running time. He has taken what is usually a gory and dumb plot and has created an intelligent story for the most part.

That is always admirable, but it seems that he almost gives up with the finale, giving in to material that obviously annoys him about endless 80?s horror movies (judging from the rest of the material). The flick in general appears to be Roth?s antidote to the majority of productions from that decade?s genre, but the last few bits make the viewer question him.

The last scene of Cabin Fever is indeed laughably pointless and forced most of the crowd to come out laughing, commenting on how dumb the movie was. The audience seemed to find the movie as more of a comedy than Roth likely intended, but I also happened to get annoyed by many of the people at the screening. Giggles would erupt at spots where you?d wonder what people were laughing at, and substantial chatter even took place during the opening credits, which irritated me given what I thought was a good opening; I wanted to experience it in silence.

Albeit the annoyance of the audience and the turn of the finale, Cabin Fever did what few films of its genre ever do, and that is creeping me out as well as making me sympathize with the leads rather than insisting that the antagonist force eat them alive. Since I had overheard a radio interview with Roth, I was unfortunately spoiled with one of his storytelling surprises, which did cue me in to some possible incidents.

But nevertheless, I found Cabin Fever to be a deliciously entertaining flick from start to finish; it doesn?t do anything particularly new, but it avoids what most films of its genre do in procedure, and that is quite respectable.
Lee's Grade: B-
Ranked #18 of 130 between Texas Chainsaw... (#17) and Hostel (#19) for 2003 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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'Cabin Fever' Articles
  • Greg's review C+
    September 14, 2003    While enjoyable at times, [it] offers nothing new to the horror film genre -- Greg Ward